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'Mainframe masters' highlight job opportunities

Lindsay Clark

IBM has announced the winners of a competition designed to encourage the teaching of mainframe skills in colleges and universities.

Although mainframes remain popular in large businesses, the skills required to support and develop these systems are in decline, said Roy Struthers, IBM's director of System z mainframes in the UK.

Many mainframe professionals are nearing retirement, and students do not realise there is a growing market for mainframe skills, he said.

"At university, there is not a lot of business computing taught, and not a lot about operating systems. What there is focuses on Unix, Windows and Linux. It is not that they have a dated view of the mainframe it is that they have no view at all," said Struthers.

The UK winners of the Master the Mainframe contest were Stephan Liwicki from the University of Leeds, James Powell from the University of Oxford and Seyed Mohammadali Eslami from the University of Edinburgh.

More than 700 students from 41 universities took part in the competition. The winners each receive a Lenovo Thinkpad, plus a visit to IBM Hursley, Winchester.

Struthers said the competition entrants did not know that mainframes were still used by many major corporations. "It has surprised the students how widely mainframes are used and how important it continues to be."

Young IT professionals looking for a stable career in the future could do worse than developing some mainframe skills, he said. "If you're looking for a platform that's going to be around for 30 years, there's only one that's been around for that time and will be here in 30-40 years to come and it's still growing rapidly."

The competition is just one part of IBM's initiative to encourage mainframe skills at universities. From Montpelier France, the firm is offering access to a System z

"More widely, we are trying to get mainframe back on the curriculum in the UK and across Europe," Struthers said. "And back on the agenda, from a technical point of view and from a business point of view."

IBM Academic Initiative >>

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